How to do the Heart Connection Practice
- Time: 2 minutes.
- Sit comfortably at the front of your yoga mat.
- Join your palms at your heart with the thumbs side by side, in between your hands. Press into your chest.
- Close your eyes lightly, and focus your mind quietly at the spot between your eyebrows.
- At your heart, picture a red rose. Lying in the middle of the rose is a sparkling diamond.
- Now softly sing the words “Om mani padme hum” (pronounced Om mani pay-may hoong). Or, if you wish, use any other brief line that uplifts and inspires you. Keep your mind on the picture of the diamond in the rose until the time is up.
How The Practice Works On You
The point of this first exercise is to warm and loosen the inner channels in the area of our heart. This quiet singing or chanting is not just a silly thing that some people go through at the start of a yoga class.
We’ve spoken about a network of channels, channels made of light, that provide the foundation for every part of our body. The most important of these channels runs up and down the very core of our body, like the great invisible axis that our dear planet Earth spins around. Whenever the inner winds flow freely within this channel, we feel bright and happy.
Alongside this central channel, to the left and the right of it, run two other channels. They are a little smaller, and at certain points they cross over and around the main channel like vines twisting around a stick of wood. The winds that flow inside these channels are connected to our negative emotions: anger, desire, selfishness. Any time we think a negative or harmful thought, it stirs up the winds within these two side channels, again because our thoughts and the winds are like a rider upon a horse.
When the winds in the side channels are stirred up, these channels begin to expand, like long thin balloons as you blow air into them. The side channels then begin to choke the central channel, at the places where they twist around it. This in turn starts to block the free flow of energy in the main channel, like a garden hose with a kink in it. And because all our good thoughts are linked to the energys in the central channel, we begin to feel nervous or unhappy. Since trouble at one level touches all the other levels, our physical health is affected.
The most serious tie-up point of all lies in our central channel at the level of our heart. Here the two side channels twist around the main one most tightly, which is exactly why your chest might start to hurt after a few especially stressful days at work, or with your family. All the exercises of Heart Yoga are targeted at this blockage point at the heart, opening it up in order to free thoughts of happiness and nourish the body.
Singing or chanting has an especially powerful effect on loosening this tie-up of the channels at the heart. This is why it’s so hard to sing when we’re in a grumpy mood; we already have a knot in our hearts. It’s also why so many of us enjoy singing in the shower: The central channel actually runs closer to our back than to the front of our bodies, and a warm spray of water can loosen this area. This relaxes the crossover point at our heart and makes us feel like singing.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the whole reason the heart has been connected to feelings of love and kindness over the centuries all goes back to loosening up this particular knot around our central channel. I give my heart to you; open your heart; may you have all that your heart desires. The exercises of Tibetan Heart Yoga are based on something we’ve known all along about our hearts.
So singing is good for our heart; now, what shall we sing’ The small chant here is very, very old and has been the favorite of all the Dalai Lamas. Imagine all the good and kind thoughts that have been thought so far today, inside the heads of every single person in the world. Now imagine that we could put all these thoughts in one place and build a person out of them, like a snowman made of handfuls of snow. It would be some kind of exquisite being of pure perfect light, like an angel in the old paintings.
The Tibetans thought of this beautiful creature as an angel they called Chenresik, which means the Angel Who Looks upon Us with Eyes of Love, or simply Loving Eyes. They believed that each of the Dalai Lamas was in reality this angel. Be that as it may, the small chant we use here has always been connected with the angel Loving Eyes and thus with the Dalai Lamas. It has a very special effect upon opening the tangle at our hearts.
The song of Loving Eyes is written in Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. The sounds of Sanskrit lie at the bottom of about half the languages of the world, including English. The Tibetans believed that this is because the words we use for things all came originally from the deep and subtle sounds of the winds running within our own bodies. Sanskrit is based upon these windsongs. So when we sing in Sanskrit, it helps release the tie-ups of our inner channels. The sound of om, for example, opens us up to be more kind to others in our actions, words, and thoughts.
Lots of us might feel more comfortable doing the chant in our own language, and that works well too. In English the words come out as “I sing the diamond in the rose.” The original words mean “Om, the jewel in the lotus,” but in Heart Yoga we use the diamond and the rose, for a very special reason.
The flower here in our hearts is meant to be one that is lovely and fragrant, and also one that thrives under difficult circumstances. In India this is the lotus, a pink-orange bloom with a subtle but striking perfume. A lotus always grows in the dirtiest, most polluted part of a pond, rising gracefully out of the filth, untouched by it. The flower represents our love for others, the love in our heart, which grows calmly and unaffected even during the most stressful and difficult moments of our day.
When you picture the bloom within you, it’s important to use a flower that you grew up with, since it moves your subconscious thoughts and winds more strongly. For most of us then the red rose is best, growing as it does with almost no water, even in the desert, even in a busy modern life.
We picture the diamond within the rose because, on the day that the knot in your heart opens completely, you will see a clear crystal light reaching out from there in love, to every living thing in the entire universe. And behind this love is the ultimate truth of all things, itself as pure and indomitable as a diamond.
As the Dalai Lama often says during his talks around the world, it is also very appropriate during this first exercise simply to chant the name of any special being, past or present, who has meant a lot to you during your life. It could be Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad; or a dear teacher from school; even the name of your mother or father, wife or husband. Anyone who inspires in you the feeling of heart-kindness.
Don’t be shy; sing out clear and long. It’s a little corny, but it’s very important.
Source- The Tibtan Book of Yoga, by Geshe Michael Roach
Adapted by G Ross Clark